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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 11 May 2009

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Trade Unionists (Blacklisting)

The Minister for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs (Mr. Pat McFadden): The Government firmly believe that the blacklisting of trade unionists has no place in a modern system of employment relations. Individuals should not be systematically and secretly victimised for their trade union membership and for engaging in the activities of a trade union.

Section 3 of the Employment Relations Act 1999 contains a power for the Secretary of State to introduce regulations prohibiting the compilation, dissemination and use of lists of trade union members or activists drawn up with the purpose of discrimination in relation to their recruitment and treatment by employers or employment agencies.

We consulted on draft regulations in 2003 but they were not implemented. We took that decision because it was then widely believed that blacklisting of this type had been eradicated in the UK. Following the investigation of the Information Commissioner into the affairs of the Consulting Association (TCA) renewed evidence has come to light. The investigation showed that, within the construction industry, a covert vetting system has operated. My officials have worked closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) during its investigation and they have examined the detailed information which the ICO seized from the TCA. We have discovered that much of the information held by the TCA concerned the trade union activities of individuals and gave a very unfavourable account of their suitability for employment.

In the light of these developments, the Government are minded to introduce regulations under section 3 of the 1999 Act. To ensure we have drafted them correctly and taken account of subsequent developments, BERR will launch a short public consultation early this summer seeking views on revised regulations. We will then seek parliamentary approval of the final draft regulations this autumn, bringing them into effect at the earliest opportunity thereafter. This abuse needs to be addressed as a matter of priority and our aim is to ensure that suitably drafted regulations are implemented with the minimum of delay.


Investment Banks (Insolvency)

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Alistair Darling): As indicated in both the pre-Budget report and the Budget, the Government are conducting a detailed review of the arrangements surrounding the insolvency of
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investment banks. Today I am publishing the Government’s first consultation document on this issue. This document sets out the Government’s preliminary thinking on possible market, regulatory or legislative changes that may be considered in respect of future insolvencies in the investment banking sector. The paper covers issues relating to trading, clearing and settlement, to client assets and monies, and to the resolution of investment firms in difficulty. Copies of the document entitled: “Developing Effective Resolution Arrangements for Investment Banks” have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and will be available on the HM Treasury website.

Children, Schools and Families

Safer School Partnerships

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): Today my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for the Home Department and I are announcing the publication of “Safer School Partnerships Guidance”.

In the “Youth Crime Action Plan” published in July last year, we said that we wanted to encourage the foundation of more Safer School Partnerships (SSPs), so that they become the norm rather than the exception. SSPs, an important part of neighbourhood policing, have a central role to play in supporting the triple track approach of enforcement, prevention and support on which the action plan is based. Taking early action to ensure pupil safety and to prevent young people from being drawn into crime or antisocial behaviour is important for all pupils and for all schools. And every school—not just those in high crime areas or which have serious issues of antisocial behaviour or offending among its pupils—should consider establishing an SSP.

This publication provides guidance to support that aim. Copies of the guidance have been placed in the Library.

Communities and Local Government

Regeneration (England)

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears): I am today publishing “Transforming Places; Changing Lives: Taking Forward the Regeneration Framework”. This follows the consultation document I launched last July that looked at the way regeneration is carried out in England.

Since that time the economic downturn has had a significant impact on regeneration activity. This is not just having an impact upon physical developments; but also on the lives of people living across the country through jobs and homes that have been lost and the strain that it places on communities.

This document responds to these challenges and sets out a strategic framework for regeneration, supported by measures to target investment; deliver increased flexibility for front-line agencies; and clear leadership—setting
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out a vision of the outcomes we expect regeneration to deliver now and in the future.

The framework aims to ensure that regeneration investment is:

The framework sets out three success measures—against which all regeneration should be judged in future. These are:

The framework is accompanied by an impact assessment. Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses or it can be accessed via the Communities and Local Government website at: www.communities.gov.uk/citiesandregions/

Culture, Media and Sport

Education, Youth and Culture Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Barbara Follett): The Education, Youth and Culture Council will be held on 11 and 12 May in Brussels. Andy Lebrecht, UK deputy permanent representative, will be representing the UK on 12 May when culture and audiovisual issues will be taken.

The first item on the agenda concerns the Council conclusions on culture as a catalyst for creativity and innovation. The conclusions successfully draw the link between culture and the Lisbon objectives and also reflect the role of creativity in responding to the economic crisis. This year also celebrates the European Year of Creativity and Innovation. I intend to support the adoption of these conclusions.

The Council will be invited to adopt a decision on the selection of two member states with a view to the nomination by the Council of two experts in the selection panel for the European Capital of Culture Community action 2010-12. The presidency will also seek the adoption of decisions on the selection of cities to host the European Capital of Culture events for 2012 and 2013. Portugal and Slovenia are the EU member states nominating cites for 2012 and have put forward Guimarães and Maribor respectively.

France and Slovakia are nominating cities for 2013 and have put forward Marseille and Košice respectively. I intend to support each of these proposals.

There will then be a discussion of a presidency paper on creative content online. The paper asks a series of questions around the prevention of intellectual property theft and the need to promote media literacy: What
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steps have member states taken to help develop legal offers and tackle the problems of piracy? How effective have these steps been and are there any lessons that can be learned from the experience gained? In particular: (i) how far is it possible to take Government action without risking the creation of new obstacles to the development of new innovative services, and; (ii) how far is it possible to develop solutions which promote greater variety and better accessibility of legal offer while protecting the interests of rightholders? On media literacy, the presidency asks: How can member states achieve greater awareness on the importance of media literacy, and where do they see added value in possible initiatives at EU level? Our contribution to the exchange of views will outline current UK actions where we think that these are relevant to other member states and the Commission.

Under any other business, the presidency will provide information on the state of play of the Commission proposal establishing MEDIA Mundus, an audiovisual co-operation programme with professionals from third countries. The programme has a budget of €15 million and will run for a three-year period from 2011. The aims of the programme include increasing information exchange, competitiveness and transnational distribution worldwide. It also aims to improve circulation and exposure of audiovisual works, increasing public demand for culturally diverse audiovisual content. The presidency will present a paper outlining the current status of this proposal and will invite discussion and comments from member states. The UK is supportive of the principle of this programme, and I do not foresee the need to intervene on this item.

Also under any other business the presidency will provide feedback on the conference held on the responsibilities of content providers and users and the Forum for Creative Europe. There will be an information point on the Work Plan for Culture 2008-10. There will also be an information point from the Greek delegation on the inauguration of the New Acropolis Museum. The Government do not foresee any need to intervene on any of these items.


Exercise Joint Warrior

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): Joint Warrior is a biannual tri-service major exercise with invited NATO and allied nations and usually takes place over a two week period in the spring and autumn. Its aim is to provide high quality joint collective training and pre-deployment training in a multi-threat environment for participating units and their staffs. Each unit will operate from various bases in the UK and abroad but specifically there is an increase in air and land activity across Wales, Scotland and the border regions of England, as well as an increase in maritime activity in the north and west of Scotland.

These exercises have now become routine and I therefore wish to update the House that, with immediate effect, it is my intention to write only to individual Members
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who have raised specific concerns. I have also written to First Ministers for Scotland and Wales to advise them of this decision.

Joint Warrior is a complex exercise which requires careful planning and co-ordination to minimise the possibility of environmental damage. I would like to reassure the House that, in order to achieve this, the exercise planning teams will continue to work closely with local authorities, various national rural agencies, landowners and other interested parties.

Collective training is a key priority for defence. It is a vital component of the UK armed forces ability to be able to generate forces at the right time, with the right skills and in the right numbers and Joint Warrior has the additional benefit of also giving UK forces the ability to train and operate with other coalition countries. The next exercise, Joint Warrior 091, commences on 11 May 2009 and a press release will be issued for public information.

Innovation, Universities and Skills

EU Competitiveness Ministers Meeting (4 May 2009)

The Minister of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Mr. David Lammy): My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, has made the following written statement:

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Prison Service

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Paul Goggins): I have placed copies of the Northern Ireland Prison Service’s Corporate and Business Plan for 2009-12 in the Libraries of both Houses.

The Corporate and Business Plan contains key performance targets I have set for the service for 2009-10. These are:

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